There are many elements of Hulu’s new documentary, Jawline, that feel like plot points taken from any other feature film or TV show about a small-town boy hoping to make it big. A bright-eyed teen — in this case, 16-year-old Austyn Tester — tries to find fame as a way to escape his dead-end hometown of Kingsport, Tenn., through his good looks and charm. His family, down-on-their-luck blue collar folks who are raising a small army of kittens, are counting on his success to help pull them out of their own mediocre life circumstances.
What’s different about Liza Mandelup's award-winning doc, however (it won a Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker at this year’s Sundance Film Festival), is that it tackles this generation’s vehicle to instant fame: social media and influencer culture. And along with that, naturally, it explores the darker sides to the industry, including burnout, an inability to tell fantasy from reality, and importantly, people who inevitably capitalize on that aforementioned success.
Though Tester’s storyline is undeniably the central thread of the documentary, a secondary character, Michael Weist, is also featured prominently in the film, offering an interesting dimension to the story and a bit of controversy to boot. Weist is the 21-year-old CEO of Juice Krate Media Group, LLC (and formerly the CEO of now-defunct Good Time Media, LLC), and he is perhaps best known for his involvement with the infamous TanaCon, which, for those who don't know, was just shy of being the Fyre Festival of influencer conventions.
Weist is also known for being involved in a very public legal battle with two former clients, YouTube stars Bryce Hall and Mikey Barone, a topic visited in the documentary. During the film, Weist addresses the the loss of the two clients and says that during the back and forth of the lawsuit, Hall allegedly threatened Weist's grandmother.
The issues started when Hall and Barone claimed in late 2017 that Weist had touched them inappropriately and hacked their Twitter accounts — at the time, the accounts were visibly taken over by an unknown hacker, spammed, and sabotaged. On Twitter, Weist denied the claims against him and responding shortly after and calling the accusations "defamation" and "slander." The hacking accusation appeared to be false and Weist took his former clients to court. The case was settled in summer of 2018 and Hall released some settlement information via Twitter, which included his statement:
"I made some harsh statements about Michael and regret making those statements, including any suggestion of sexual assault. I am sorry for what happened and I am glad it's over."
Weist, having just lost Hall and Barone only to find new clients to replace them, closes out the documentary with his personal, and frank, assessment of the influencer industry and his place in it:
"Finding someone who looks cute on Instagram and gaining them a million followers is so easy to do,” he says. “What happens when they’re 30? Because when they’re not cute, and those little girls are no longer 13 and they don't care, it’s game over. There’s no longevity behind it. Once they're gone, I'll find someone else to manage their career and take those profits as well.”